Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meal Exchange trip to Ark Aid Street Mission

On a Wednesday night near the end of last semester, Meal Exchange, a student run group of campus volunteers committed to feeding London's hungry, joined forces with CSLN volunteers at Ark Aid Street Mission, to enjoy a night of "serving" the community - literally. We all gathered by the Natural Science bus stop at 5:15 pm on a chilly November night, waiting for the 2 Dundas to take us to our destination. Almost none of us knew one another providing for an interesting bus ride getting to know other volunteers. Myself and Brittany, the Meal Exchange representative, then led the group to Ark Aid Street Mission. There we were met with owner Wade, who assigned each of us a unique task to do - entree, soup, salads, desserts, coffee, cleaners, greeters and floaters.... Yes, we were going to serve dinner to some Londoners in need.

Only a few of us had ever served at a soup kitchen before. None of us really knew what to expect. Wade told us it may not be a busy night as welfare checks had been mailed the day before. Before we knew it we had hair nets on and the doors opened. The night was busy and the 3 hours flew by (almost) without a hitch! The patrons of the "Ark" seemed to be enjoying their meals and the company around them. There was even enough for seconds of dessert, treats that campus Starbucks' kindly donate each day to the house. Some of the guests stuck around to chat with us, others went to the used clothing store in the neighbouring room. Perhaps most interesting of all, many found their way downstairs to the basement of the Ark, where a graduate of UWO Fine Arts was hosting The New School of Colour, an art program that runs weekdays from 7-9 pm. After the dinner rush and a lively conversation with two other gentlemen about the future of health care in Canada, I found myself wandering downstairs too where I met some of the other volunteers in awe of the hidden talent and treasures of London's artistic community. I could see now why Wade had called The New School of Colour "one of the best things to ever happen to the Ark."

Half an hour later after most of the guests had gone home, the volunteers and I went to catch the bus back to campus. Everyone was in good spirits and a few reflection questions revealed they would all be interested in participating in a similar event in the future and serving London's hungry again. It was a challenging yet eye-opening experience that I am glad I got to be a part of. I look forward to upcoming trips with Meal Exchange to Ark Aid and other unique opportunities to serve the community!


For more information visit Ark Aid's homepage

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Autism Ontario Teen Group and Karate

CSLN visited Autism Ontario yesterday, April 6th, to participate in their Teen Group program. Boys and girls ranging in ages from 12 to 17 attended. CSLN  service-learners did arts and crafts, played board games and had fun hanging out with the participants.

For myself, I had the privilege of speaking with one boy for more than an hour and a half about world history and alternate histories. Beginning with the American Revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, our talk moved to the Civil War, World War I, World War II (particularly the events at Stalingrad and Leningrad) and concluded with a discussion about Stephen Harper's superfluous spending. We had some great discussions about the "what ifs" of all these events. For example, what would be the ultimate outcome of WWII had France and Britain recognized the Confederate States as an independent nation during the American Civil War (and subsequently assisted them in defeating the Union forces)?

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable in North American and European history. It is a bit of a hobby of mine. However, I found myself being corrected  time and time again in some of my details (especially dates). It was a very interesting conversation and I learned a lot of  really cool trivia that I had no idea about before. Oh, did I mention? This boy is 12.

CSLN also actively participated in Autism Ontario's Karate Program. Over the course of 8 weeks we were able to see great improvement in the kids who attended. Plus, we learned some karate along the way!

Throughout our experience at Autism Ontario, CSLN service-learners discussed how our volunteering made a positive impact on the community and on ourselves. Many volunteers found it was a great learning experience as they had never worked with autistic children before and, in one case, did not really know what autism was. Volunteering with this organization was not only a lot of fun (eg. hanging out with the kids ) but it also fostered in us a greater sense of appreciation, tolerance and empathy for a brain disorder that most do not have much experience with.

-Michael Salna 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Make No Broken Bones About It!

On Saturday, March 26, the CSLN once again partnered with the London & Thames Valley Chapter of Osteoporosis Canada to help out with their Make No Broken Bones About It! public education forum. The event took place at Brescia University College and was attended by both men and women of all ages from London and the surrounding area. CSLN service-learners were active throughout the session to welcome guests, hand-out information packages, direct participants to the presentation rooms, and assist with various other tasks throughout the day.

Osteoporosis Canada is a national organization that seeks to raise awareness about osteoporosis prevention and provide support for individuals experiencing the effects of the disease. Costing over $1.9 billion in annual health care costs, osteoporosis is a disease that reduces bone mass causing bones to become porous and fragile. It is estimated that over 2 million Canadians have osteoporosis including 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men over the age of 50. Osteoporosis can strike at any age, however by monitoring one's diet and remaining physically active throughout the life course, it is possible to prevent significant bone deterioration well into old age.
CSLN service-learners had the opportunity to attend both the keynote sessions at the Make No Broken Bones About It! event. The first presentation, "Healthy Living for Healthy Bones" was by Noelle Martin, a registered dietician, who explained the effects of osteoporosis and how to obtain enough vitamins and minerals through food consumption to reduce these effects. Public health nurse, Amy Mak, facilitated the second presentation, "Stepping Out Safely" which informed participants about how to prevent falls.
In between presentations, the CSLN service-learners discussed how their presence at the Osteoporosis public education event was significant both to the organization they were helping, the participants and to each of us individually. A few of us come from Science and Health Studies backgrounds and we found it interesting to be able to relate our studies to the information presented by the keynotes. All of us felt grateful to be able to attend the session because of the valuable information we can now pass on to our own family members and friends. There was also that wonderful feeling of making a meaningful connection with a local London organization which can be summarized in the following thank-you we received from Osteoporosis Canada: "We love having the smiles, the enthusiasm and co-operation your group gives to us."

-ChloĆ© Restivo 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Mission Store

Throughout the year CSLN has been partnering with Mission Services of London. This is an organization that has many programs that provide emergency shelter, meals, clothing and other necessary resources to those in need. By providing these services they aim to improve the lives of the disadvantaged population in London. In December a group of Western students visited Rotholme, the family shelter of Mission Services of London, and enjoyed spreading the holiday spirit.

In January, 4 students spent an afternoon at the Mission Store. The Mission Store provides affordable clothing, linens, bedding, housewares and small appliances for families and individuals in need. There are 57 organizations in the London community that can refer individuals to the Mission Store with vouchers and then individuals can receive the items they need for free. Our small group of Western students sorted through donations and found some very entertaining treasures. The Mission Store receives an overwhelming amount of donations, there were probably 100 garbage bags of donations on the loading dock when we arrived (and half as many when we left). We were told over the holidays the loading dock was overflowing with donations, we were astounded by the generosity of the London community.

During reflection our group discussed how this service experience would change our future behaviours. All of us agreed, by understanding the needs of services like this, we will change what we donate. Many of the items that were donated could not be used. If we wouldn’t ask a family member to wear it, then it was not going to be sold at the Mission Store. The Mission Store aims to provide quality clothing to its clients; by providing dignifying items to the disadvantaged population, we can instill a sense of confidence in them. We might think that someone will want our shirt with a couple stains on it and a few holes, but we want to change the mindset, everyone deserves better. Overall, I think we will all think twice about what we donate next time, and I hope you will too.

- Alanna Morgan

Monday, March 7, 2011

Using Long Division to Make a Difference

I'm looking back to all those times during elementary school when I asked myself in frustration "When am I ever going to need to use this?", usually during math class. Now I have my answer. The Wilfred Jury Public school homework club is where the other service learners and I finally get to use skills like long division and French spelling that we so begrudgingly learned many years ago.

The Homework Club is highly organised, which makes it much easier for us to do our share of contributing to the school on a weekly basis. All the volunteers wear name tags (that we decorated ourselves, of course), there's snack time and also a ballot system that serves as an incentive for the kids to stay focused. We help out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday afternoons.

Through reflection, it's become clear that it has been an extremely rewarding experience for us all. We've worked on communication techniques with children and how to motivate them to do more school work even after an entire day of sitting in class. Sometimes it's difficult too keep the kids focused, and unsurprisingly so. They've finished six hours of class which only includes 30 minutes of PE, I believe that's akin to seven consecutive UWO 50-min lectures with a quick stretch at the gym, which continues to shock me if I look at it that way. But the other service learners and I have shared our ideas on how to keep the kids focused and our techniques have been working quite well so far.

The kids have said that they are always very glad to have finished their work by the time they get home and have the rest of the evening to do whatever they please (apparently sleepovers still as fun as I remember them to be). When they've gotten tests and assignments back where they've done well, they've seen how a little extra work after school can get them the grades they like to see.

We've also reflected on the value of such a program where tutoring is provided free-of-charge by university students. Though it's still been quite a few years since I've been briefed on the fundamentals of science taught in elementary school, as a science student, I'm sure it's still a little less headache-inducing than for one of the kids' parents to remember which Newton's law is which after not having been in school for a long time.

Volunteering at Wilfred Jury has been a wonderful experience for me, as the student coordinator, too. Until now, I've been working exclusively on the planning/administrative side of things and have always gotten a little jealous when the facilitators spoke excitedly of their experiences at our weekly meetings. It's great to get a chance to do a bit of what got me interested in the CSLN in the first place, to serve and learn.

- Vivian M. Leung

Monday, December 6, 2010

Autism Ontario

On Tuesday, November 30th, CSLN visited Autism Ontario for their “Teen Group” program. We had blast hanging out with the teens that came out (whom had varying degrees of either autism or Asperger syndrome) and decorating the main room in preparation for their Christmas party next week.
Autism is a neural developmental disorder. People with autism generally have difficulties in their social and behavioural skills. While this may be true, most of the teens that showed up were very social (and extremely intelligent)! It is pretty cool to be able to discuss the Human Genome Project with a 13-year-old (and be corrected by them).
All in all, it was a great experience talking to everyone and getting a new perspective on a disorder (and being able to humanize it) that we may have only heard about in Psychology 1000. Looking forward to going back soon!
-Michael Salna

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saugeen Serves-Parkwood Hospital

On Saturday November 27th, over 100 students from Saugeen Maitland Hall took part in Saugeen Serves. We were split into eleven groups and each group spent the afternoon service learning with an organization within London. I was the team leader of a group of seven students who ventured to St. Joseph’s Hospital-Parkwood in the south of London.  That afternoon, a Barbershop Quartet was performing in the auditorium, and it was our job to transport the patients from their rooms to the auditorium so they could enjoy the entertainment. While gathering residents to escort to the auditorium, we had the chance to talk to them and, as most of the residents were much older than us, it was a nice change from the usual conversations we have at school. There is a Veteran’s wing at this hospital, and some of the other volunteers were fortunate enough to escort them to the auditorium and talk to them about their adventures. The Barbershop Quartet was entertaining, and my favourite part was when the residents were given the words to some common Christmas carols and we all sang along. It was really nice to see hospitalized people so happy and excited about the holidays.
After the show was over and we escorted everyone back to their rooms, we were shown this touching video about some residents from this hospital:
My service learning experience at this hospital was amazing, and everyone from our group signed up to get more information about volunteering there in the future.
-Alyssa Kelly

Holiday Decorating at Rotholme!

On Friday, December 3rd, seven Western students took a break from studying for exams and trekked through the snow to Rotholme Women’s and Family Shelter. Rotholme is one of the shelters run by Mission Services of London, and provides emergency shelter for families and single women. Mission Services provides many important services to community members in need. Throughout the year the Community Service Learning Network will be volunteering with Mission Services in many of their programs, providing students with the opportunity to learn more about the organization.

This service learning event was filled with holiday cheer! Students decorated the shelter for the holidays with some of the families at the shelter. Some students had never decorated for the holidays, so this was a night filled with new experiences. The students had many different reasons for coming out to volunteer, but we all found out how important this shelter is to our community. Through interaction with the clients of the Rotholme and a discussion period following the service, students were able to share what value this service had to their academic and career goals. One student aspired to be a teacher, so spending time with children provided valuable experience, while others simply wanted to get involved in the community they live in. We are excited to continue with Mission Services and to learn more about the issues they face and the community members they serve.

-         - Alanna Morgan

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Santa Shuffle with the Salvation Army

It's early in the morning on a Saturday, and all is covered in snow as the mercury drops several degrees below zero. But that isn't enough to stop 10 eager service learners from helping out at the the Santa Shuffle, a charity 5K run held every year to support the London Salvation Army. I had never heard about the run before this year, but it's held in over 30 communities all over Canada every winter. We all arrived early to help with registration and directing runners that were soon going to run 5 laps around gorgeous Victoria Park, an ambitious feat considering how cold it was and the unshovelled paths. For us it was also a great learning experience. Some of us were tasked with cheering runners on as they ran, while others were handing out goody bags at the finish line.  At reflection, we all agreed that the sense of accomplishment we could see on the faces of those who finished the run was among some of the best parts of the morning. Many of the participants were not serious runners, or even athletic, but the need in the community was enough to get them out of bed early on a Saturday. Most of us service learners had never heard of the Santa Shuffle before either, and were impressed that we were able to contribute to a worthy cause doing something unexpected. We were not helping out at a shelter, or sorting through donations, nor did we meet any of the people that the Salvation Army serves, but yet we were able help thousands of people. And that, is what amazed us most.

Student Coordinator

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CSLN Painting Project at Dale Brain Injury Services!

On Sunday, October 17, five enthusiastic CSLN volunteers journeyed to Dale Brain Injury Services to paint two new office rooms. 

Dale Brain Injury Services is a community-based organization that provides services for adults living with the effects of an acquired brain injury. Dale aims to:
-facilitate the inclusion of people living with the effects of a brain injury within the family, workplace and society
-be flexible in order to be able to meet the demands of a dynamic field and changing consumer needs
-model the philosophy espoused by the agency to the community

Prior to participating in this service-learning opportunity, many of the student volunteers had never painted before so the day was certainly full of new experiences! Together, they taped, primed and painted the rooms, stopping to enjoy a pizza lunch provided by Dale Brain Injury Services while they waited for coats of paint to dry. At the end of the day Dale employees mentioned that the room looked professionally painted and that they were so appreciative for all our hard work. Before packing up, the students participated in a service-learning reflection of their volunteer experience and how the experience had impacted the community partner and themselves. Overall our day with Dale Brain Injury Services was a huge success and we are really looking forward to working with them again soon!

-ChloĆ© Restivo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 1 at the Boys and Girls Club

On Thursday Nov 11th, a group of eager volunteers with the Student Success Centre’s CSLN went to the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) in London to begin their Service Learning Experience of 2010/11.

Add ImageThe mission of all BGCs in Canada is to provide a safe, supportive place where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life.

The facilities at the London club include a 25 meter competitive swimming pool complete with ramp, a spa, large gym offering extensive sports programs and leagues, rock wall climbing, large ball and foam rooms, craft room, three computer labs, small library, games room with air hockey, pool, pop-a-shot basketball, ping pong, small group games room, and Tween zone.
The Teen Zone (for youth 13 - 18) allows teens to come together in their own setting and includes: a computer lab, big screen TV, pool tables, crafts, X-box and other virtual entertainment systems.

After a ½ hour orientation involving an overview of the generally accepted volunteering principles at the BGC, we were split up into different rooms and oversaw the activities taking place there. The main role of volunteers at the BGC is to ensure that youth at the facility get the most out of their experience, while ensuring that a safe environment is maintained.

Student responses to our first volunteering experience at the BGC were overwhelmingly positive. First year student Michael Ding commented:

“… The opportunity to volunteer at the B&G Club has given me the chance to give back to society, and the smiles and laughter from every child in the B&G made me feel that my effort and time were all worth it.”

Reflection periods are increasing in popularity among service learning clubs and organizations as they have been shown to improve participant recognition of the value they have added to their community. At the BGC, particular emphasis was put on recognizing how children's perception of the community would change, and what kind of experiences would replace those they gain at the BGC if the club did not exist.

Overall, the CSLN's first exposure to the BGC was extremely rewarding and I personally cannot wait to get back.

- Robert Freele

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Student's Experience Volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club

The CSLN is currently working with the Boys and Girls Club of London in an after school program. Here is what one student had to say about the experience:

"By taking an active role in volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, I have realized the importance in after-school programs for children. The B&G program helps to entertain kids while educating them on important life values, such as, teamwork, cooperation, and creativity. The opportunity to volunteer at the B&G Club has given me the chance to give back to society, and the smiles and laughters from every child in the B&G made me feel that my effort and time were all worth it." - CSLN Volunteer

Find out how you can get involved in the CSLN by emailing cslnetwork@uwo.ca.